2012 Prospects: Mid-term rankings for top 10 Minnesota High School players

By Blake Benzel

Here are the top 10 Minnesota High School players as ranked by Central Scouting Service.

Zach Stepan, F, Shattuck St. Mary’s

Stats: 34 GP, 17 G, 35 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 44

Cousin to the Rangers’ Derek Stepan, Zach looks to pave his own way into the NHL this draft and is displaying the offensive acumen this season that everyone knew that he had, putting up solid numbers with Shattuck. His ability to gain body position and control the puck has more than made up for his slight size (5’11, 170) and he looks to have a commanding hold on the top Minnesota High School prospect for this upcoming draft.

Teddy Blueger, F, Shattuck St. Mary’s
Stats: 29 GP, 13 G, 32 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 69

Blueger is unique to the Minnesota High School ranks as the Latvia native got a chance to play for his home country this season at the World Juniors, tallying a goal and two assists in six games to rank second on the Latvian squad in scoring. Blueger’s hands and playmaking ability make him an offensive threat, though he needs to fill out his 6’0 frame a bit before he will truly be ready to compete at the next level.

John Draeger, D, Shattuck St. Mary’s

Stats: 35 GP, 8 G, 22 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 71

Originally projected as a shutdown defenseman, Draeger has really opened up his offensive game this season and looks to have embraced more of a two-way role with Shattuck. He is a great skater and has good speed on the ice, but the thing that really catches the eye is the way he thinks on the ice, processing things quicker than most at his age. His long reach and solid positioning make him a reliable presence on the blue line, though he needs to improve his decision making and puck handling abilities, especially under pressure.

Hunter Fejes, F, Shattuck. St. Mary’s
Stats: 35 GP, 24 G, 19 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 111

Fejes, an Alaska native, is one of two players playing high school hockey in Minnesota that is not of the State of Hockey. That doesn’t mean that he’s any less worthy to be included on this list though, as he is leading Shattuck in goals this season. He is a tireless worker and is already growing into his big frame and what he lacks in high-end skill, he more than makes up for with work ethic.

Jake Bischoff, D, Grand Rapids
Stats: 14 GP, 2 G, 16 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 132

Bischoff, a puck-moving defenseman, has developed dramatically this season in Grand Rapids. Owning a very good shot from the point and some slick puck handling skills, Bischoff might be more of a project than other defensemen on the list, but he certainly has the potential to grow. With decent size, he has the ability to be a solid defenseman at the next level, but he needs to work on his puck support and recovery in order to make it.

Adam Johnson, LW, Hibbing
Stats: 14 GP, 18 G, 17 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 139

Already an offensive dynamo, Johnson has elite speed and puck handling skills, as well as unbelievable hockey sense with the puck. Despite his elite skills, though, his size (5’10, 150) remains a big question, as does whether or not he will be able to develop into a complete hockey player, despite his experience on the blue line early in his high school career. Johnson is certainly a player that could be a high-risk, high-reward pick in the middle rounds of the draft.

Will Merchant, LW, Eagan
Stats: 14 GP, 14 G, 13 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 155

Merchant is the type of player that isn’t going to dazzle anyone with end-to-end rushes or spectacular moves on the outside. Instead, he’s the type of player that is going to play a complete hockey game, in all three zones, is going to go to the rough areas of the ice and is going to pay the price to make plays. He doesn’t shy away from physical play and will do all of the fundamental things that it takes to win hockey games well.

Eli May, D, Eagan
Stats: 14 GP, 4 G, 5 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 159

May is a prototypical stay-at-home defenseman. He excels playing tight defense and using his strength to win one-on-one battles with opposing forwards. He processes things on the ice very well and his decision making is one of his big assets. He won’t dazzle with his offensive skills but, at the same time, he was never known for his offensive acumen.

Grant Opperman, RW, Breck
Stats: 12 GP, 16 G 18 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 162

Opperman might be the hidden gem of the draft rankings for Minnesota, as he has displayed tremendous hands and a great scoring touch throughout his career. He’s strong and can be difficult to corral around the net but, like many power forwards, his skating may be an issue at higher levels. His size may also be a concern for the type of game that he plays but, at 6’0, 180, he certainly has room to grow too.

Charlie Sampair, C, Hill-Murray

Stats: 13 GP, 12 G, 9 A
CSS Midterm Rank: 174

There’s a good chance that Sampair might be the best skater in the high school ranks in Minnesota this season. He possesses a great, long stride and quick feet that make for an explosive skating style, as well as the ability to turn on a dime. While he might not be the strongest player, Sampair’s skating ability, alone, makes him a very intriguing prospect for the draft and he has shown a solid ability to both make plays and put the puck in the net as well.